The Japanese phrase Ikken Hissatsu is made up of three kanji, (ichi) meaning “one” , (ken) meaning “fist” and hissatsu meaning “certain kill or death”. To kill with one blow (ikken hissatsu) is a martial arts concept that, in todays modern world, very few karateka adhere to. No one knows for sure when ikken hissatsu first came into karate, but it may have originated from the samurai. Ichi Geki Hissatsu is an old samurai maxim which means “One strike, certain death“

mas oyama
Mas Oyama

A karateka who lived by this concept was the legendary karate Master, Masutatsu Oyama (pic1) 1923-1994 He became known as the ‘Godhand’, a living manifestation of the Japanese samurais’ maxim, Ichi geki Hissatsu or “One strike, certain death”. In 1950, master Mas Oyama started testing his power by fighting bulls. He fought 52 bulls, three were killed instantly, and 49 had their horns smashed off with knife hand strikes. During later years, he took on all challengers and had fights with over 270 different people. Nearly all of these fighters were defeated with one punch! Most of the fights lasted a few seconds and none of the fights lasted more than three minutes. To Masutatsu Oyama, Ichi geki Hissatsu, was the true purpose of karate techniques.

mikio yahara
Mikio Yahara

A modern day karate master who also lives by this concept, is the amazing Mikio Yahara (pic2) 8th Dan, who established the Karatenomichi World Federation in 2000. Master Yahara lives by the concept of Ichi geki Hissatsu and is one of the few modern day karate masters who pushes this amazing philosophy.

Many years ago, I remember training with Master Yahara and on one occasion I watched him perform his favourite karate kata, Unsu (cloud hands). It was beautiful and scary, all at the same time. I can only explain every karate technique within the kata, was like his life depended upon the outcome. It was REAL, no hollywood performance, no thrills, no stupid facial expressions, just raw, deadly, but beautiful, karate. To emphasise the importance of ikken hissatsu, my karate sensei used to explain that each karate move we made, should be executed like your life depended upon it. This feeling is absolutely essential in applying this concept and Master Yahara lives and breathes this concept.

I am all for karate and health over continuous full contact training (which we have all done and you simply cannot sustain such training), but i am tired of watching these so called karate champions performing karate kata like they are on a hollywood film set. They should look at karateka like Master Yahara, where to him, his life really is on the line, for every karate move!


Linden Huckle

Linden Huckle

About the author

Linden Huckle has been practicing and teaching karate for over 50 years and believes first and foremost, karateka should enjoy their karate. He says 'there is nothing better than seeing a person develop into a great person through their karate practice, while at the same time enjoying karate.'

Linden Huckle